Colour me Klimt
Eleventh and twelfth grade teachers must be plagued by frustrated students asking, “When am I ever going to use this?” The antsy teens just want to be done with it, no more teachers, no more books. As an almost degree graduate, I can affirm that indeed, I have never used quadratic equations nor litmus tests in real life. I certainly use my grammar rules (I before E except after C), but it is also my profession. Many political science students use spell check, and that’s good enough. I didn’t discover the joy of athletic accomplishment until this past spring when I started running on my own. And shop class? I have a man for that, come on!
But there is one class I took for one semester that has given me direction, focus and joie de vivre. I know fill my days with discovering more about it, new and old. I exercise my eye for detail and appreciate of layout. My eleventh grade art history course changed me. I learned chronologically how popular art developed, why people bought it, why it decorates famous buildings, what it means. I was given a skill far more important than the ability to analyze Death of a Salesman. By semeter’s end, I found myself able to enjoy visual art. I learned to find beauty in aesthetically abhorrent artworks. I found my favourties, and I return to them almost daily to remind myself of beauty beyond cubicle walls.
Our teacher had traveled the world: a different country each summer for her thirty-plus years of teaching. Many of the slides she showed us were her own photographs of the Venus de Milo, the Sistine Chapel, the Gehry building. She brought the two-dimensional images to life, colouring our imaginations with art. She showed us how a canvas with two stripes can do something, mean something real.
In art history, I was connected to all our human ancestors. I saw beauty through the eyes of ancient beholders. I fell in love with the classicism of Greek sculpture, and wept (don’t tell anyone) quietly when I saw my favourite pieces in Athens. I was moved by Picasso’s “Guernica”, and am equally excited to visit it at the Met in New York this December. I have learned and loved what it is to paint the contents of imagination and secret thoughts.
From art history class onward, I have learned that beyond necessity, functionality and reality, there is a world that I don’t have to leave behind with my childhood: Imagination. I appreciate the rose windows of the churches in my city, and I take the time to offer up my praise to the art gods of the past. Thank you cards are more meaningful now that I recognize the beauty in the Monet print on the front.
Not everyone’s experience with grade 11 art history will be the same, and if I’ve learned anything, I know that that’s wonderful. Some should hate what they see! But passion for beauty, that is something I’m glad I have to take with me.